Saturday, January 31, 2009

Giraffes united against ceiling fans, OKgiraffe united in making music...

One of the first things I do when receiving new albums at the station is mark up the cases and discs with a sharpie to prevent them from being lifted from UMFM and sold (and believe it or not I've heard of this happening at other stations - and I've personally seen what I know are radio promo copies for sale at Cheapo in Minneapolis).
The added benefit of marking up the discs is a chance to check out something more than the cover art - sometimes if I were just relying on my initial impression of an album's cover I'd pass over some decent records that don't grab my attention off the hop. A classic example of this is the Parlour Steps self-titled album, but for a more recent case-in-point I turn to this entry's subject, Montreal band OKgiraffe.

The cover of OKgiraffe's new record (pictured above) is kind of cutesy, but didn't really grab my attention. It was when I turned to the inlay and found a picture of the band holding a curious assortment of instruments that my interest was piqued. Standing in the middle of an ill-lit street, Brandon Goodwin stands behind a lone snare drum, beside him Rosa Smedley supports an upright bass and to her left Kevin Bertram cradles an accordion. I had to give this album a listen.

Thankfully OKgiraffe don't just have a fantastic photographer in their arsenal - they've also got a clutch of great tunes that utilize their peculiar instrumentation to full effect. Consider "Heaven Only Knows," where the accordion line introduces the melody and then takes a backseat role with a rhythm-guitar-type line while Smedley RAPS IN FRENCH!! What with living in Montreal it's not totally surprising that they're bilingue but the way they back-and-forth within the song is still impressive. And the song is damned funky for something so folky.

That strange juxtaposition of funk and folk is what makes this record so compelling - there's a tongue-in-cheek mention on the band's Sonicbids EPK that says OKgiraffe "leads the Urban gypsy surprise movement." I don't know if there is such a movement but after listening to OKgiraffe I'm hoping one develops so I can hear more of this type of music. Speaking of more, check out "Let Them Go" and then go check out the band's Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Friday, January 23, 2009

If A Tree Falls In The Winter, Will Anybody Hear?

Yeah. I too am scratching my head at the picture above, which can be found on the artist page of this entry's label, Out Of This Spark. But as unsettling as a half-naked man beside a barbecue, WITH A DOG'S HEAD is, it's only half as unsettling as some of the material on Timber Timbre's self-titled album.

But I mean that in a good way.

I received this album at the station on the Friday before Christmas this December past and it was the greatest of early Christmas presents - the album has found a recurrent place in my CD player and has wormed its way under my skin. When I mentioned the album being unsettling above, what I mean by that is the material has a spooky tone, made more so by the instrumentation that accompanies the lyrics. I don't for even one moment mean BAD by saying unsettling - Timber Timbre carries some of the same tonal qualities as Nick Cave's Murder Ballads; an album I LOVE.
Consider the song "Lay Down In The Tall Grass" which is queued first in the player on Timber Timbre's Myspace page as of this moment. That organ has an eery tone to it with the left hand all languorous, draggin along just a hairs-breadth off the drum pattern while the right hand stabs out a chord pattern that echoes Bernard Herrmann's Psycho violin shrieks. When Taylor Kirk's vocals come in they have a detached, echoey vibe that reinforces the ghost's story he's telling (and yes, I mean ghost's story and not ghost story). "Lay Down" actually follows opener "Demon Host" which begins with lyrical references to willing for death and the Reaper's veil. This is not music for the faint of heart.
Perhaps the most ominous of the songs on the album is my personal favourite; "We'll Find Out." I don't know if there's a topic scarier than a soul laid bare for all to see. Desiccated bones and the spectre of death have nothing on a final judgement in my books. With Kirk's wispy warble joined by a chorus of voices the result is 'soul gospel' of a kind decidedly different than the Staples Singers and their ilk practice.

I'm kicking myself a little for not digesting this album fully before assembling my Best of 2008 list - and I'm scared to know that I'll be judged for this lapse. Somehow, they'll find out.

Instead of posting an mp3 to listen to, I thought I'd post part 1 of Timber Timbre's awesome performance for's Camera Music series. Check it out and when you're finished, go check out the Wooden Sky's rooftop performance as well.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Countdown concludes...

I back-burnered this puppy to get rolling on the '09 releases but now it's February and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to get back to it...

So this is it. After running through my longlist of near misses, we're down to the hits. My Top 20 was already broadcast on the New Year's Eve special and published on UMFM's website, but without any notation or write-up on that site. So to wrap up '08 and get cracking on a new calendar year let's start at 20 and work our way down...

20: The D'Urbervilles - We Are The Hunters [Out Of This Spark] I had the good fortune of not only seeing this talented quartet play a blistering set at The Cavern this year, I also had them come into the station and record an interview and a live session with me. While the results don't match the brilliance of We Are The Hunters, my experience recording these guys proved they sound great regardless of who's behind the boards. This is a flat out great rock record and I look forward to several more from this young band.

19: The Gorgon - Corpse Whale [Transistor 66] I wrote about this trio of strong ladies back when I was still following an alphabetical approach but I'd have picked them even if they weren't my "G" girls. Corpse Whale never wore out its welcome and its energy never waned. At the time I linked to their tribute to the Royal Albert, for a change-up, here's "Tommy." This is the first - but definitely not the last - of the albums I've previously blogged about here on Ear To The Sound.

18: Eliot Lipp - Outside [Mush] I've mentioned writing for Stylus several times on this blog, but I also write for Uptown, the weekly Winnipeg magazine, a fact I've only alluded to once. It was through my role reviewing electronic releases for Uptown that I first heard this record. It was one of the most positive reviews I've written for that publication and deservedly so - The Outside is a great album. Here's what I said in awarding it an "A":

Tacoma native and Brooklyn-based artist Lipp finds a comfortable home on Mush, where his skewed take on hip-hop – incorporating heavy synths and dark, ominous tones into the boom-bap – is not so outré on a roster that includes cLOUDDEAD.
The album begins with a flurry of sounds on the title-track. The beat skitters around a chugging bass-line before the melody worms its way into the mix just past the half-minute mark, with Lipp layering the synths to great effect. Listeners are immediately awash in the album and never fully dry out. Over a dozen tracks Lipp crafts compelling synthscapes, each varied and deep enough to reward repeat listens.
For an album called The Outside, what the material evokes most vividly is a very particular 'outside.' It's one where the listener is being furtively pursued in a nightscape of steaming manholes and burnt out streetlights and ultimately eludes their pursuer; a scary and strangely invigorating experience.

17: Beach House - Devotion [Carpark Records] Fuck do I love THE WIRE. And Camden Yards. With Beach House, B'more now has more than a fantastic drama and an amazing ballpark to make it a vacation destination - they've also got some dreamy, gauzy pop music that is like honey in my ears. I actually listened to this album while driving to Baltimore on my roadtrip this summer and now I'm devoted to Devotion.

16: The Sea & Cake - Car Alarm [Thrill Jockey] If rock were baseball, The Sea & Cake would be well past Ty Cobb on the all-time list because they're batting a thousand (1.000) with their albums. And they've improved their OBP by releasing two albums in two years after much larger gaps - Everybody made my 2007 Top 20 and Car Alarm guaranteed itself a place in my 08 list from the first time I heard it. This is one band that has never done me wrong.

15: Jazzanova - Of All The Things [Verve] My first reaction to hear this record was "what the hell? THIS is the new Jazzanova record?" It took a few listens for my expectations to wear off and embrace the fact that my favourite German nü-jazz collective decided to make a soul record. It was "Let Me Show Ya" featuring an amazing vocal by Paul Randolph and an irrepressible spirit that made me a convert to the Nü-Jazzanova, and the album also features fantastic vocal contributions from the likes of Ben Westbeech, Jose James and Dwele.

14: Throw Me The Statue - Moonbeams [Secretly Canadian] Another entry in the "I Reviewed This For Stylus And Fell In Love With It" sweepstakes. Here's what I wrote:

A friend recently compared Seattle band Throw Me The Statue to They Might Be Giants and the more I listen to Moonbeams, the more I agree. It might not be apparent at first, but both groups take indirect or obscure paths to crafting pop gems. These songs lack the immediacy of bubble-gum pop, though this proves to their credit as their charms are more lasting. Consider "Lolita" and "Your Girlfriend's Car." The former has a breakneck glockenspiel intro, percussive guitar lines and Scott Reitherman's lead vocals swoop up and down recklessly and end with a thud; the latter apes ragtime piano for its intro and the vocals are awkwardly syncopated and things don't really come together until the one-minute-mark.
It's the way in which things do come together that makes the results awe-inspiring. The way Reitherman sings "they're not / our only ones" on "Your Girlfriend's Car" gives me goosebumps every time, and the densely layered instrumentation throughout Moonbeamsis subtle but pivotal to its effect on the listener. The simple, wistful tales that Reitherman relates in his gentle singing voice are greatly ennobled by the skill of the band in crafting suitable and surprising accompaniment. I can't recommend this record enough.

13: Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend [XL Recordings] Yes I know. All the hipsters are over this shit and Nick and Norah have no doubt deleted "Oxford Comma" from their playlist but I will readily admit that this was one of the catchiest, most infectious albums of the year and I caught the bug. So sue me. If you don't want your music to be fun, or will abandon something just because it has become popular then I can't help you. We live in different worlds and mine is the one where "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" still gets me dancing.

12: Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane [Flemish Eye/Sub Pop] While I have enjoyed CVG's prior albums, this is the first one I've straight-up loved. It's like the distillation of all he's done before and the results are endlessly listenable. From the beautiful, heartbreaking opener "Willow Tree" to the glitchy "TMNT Mask" and finally to the fuzzy "Frozen Energon" VanGaalen covers the waterfront and somehow - miraculously - holds all these loose threads together.

11: High Places - High Places [Thrill Jockey] Robert Barber and Mary Pearson make music that is too gorgeous for words. Seriously. Every time I listen to this record and their collection 03.07 - 09.07 I do it with mouth agape. I have a hard time setting down the thoughts that swirl around in my head while listening to High Places.

10: Katie Stelmanis - Join Us [Blocks Recording Co.] This album crossed my desk in January 2008 and instantly caught my attention with its peculiar sound and Stelmanis' interesting songcraft. I had the good fortune of interviewing her for the Killbeat podcast I produce and host (you can hear the interview here) and discovered that Stelmanis created these songs after messing around on the computer and teaching herself how to make music. Kinda makes me wish I was creating music on my computer rather than using it for solitaire and Facebook status updates.

09: Steve Reid Ensemble - Daxaar [Domino] Yet another in the Stylus review series. New issue with Julia Ryckman (from The Gorgon)'s sweet Fundrive art is on stands in Winnipeg NOW. Here's what I wrote for a previous issue:

God bless Domino and Four Tet for the resurgence of Steve Reid's career. The legendary drummer – he's worked with a litany of amazing artists ranging from Sun Ra to James Brown – has put out four fantastic releases on Domino in the last two years, three of which were credited to Reid and Kieran Hebden (that'd be Four Tet) and now Daxaar credited to the Steve Reid Ensemble (which includes Hebden on 'electronics').
Where the two Exchange Sessions and Tongues focused on improvisation and an organic back-and-forth between Reid and Hebden, Daxaar exhibits a more structured form and finds Reid setting both the tone and the pace for his ensemble.
While Reid's compositions are structured, they don't prevent the material on the album from sounding loose and free. Consider the title track where Roger Ongolo's trumpet line dances about like a kite anchored (just barely) to the rhythm section. The trumpet line is soon replaced by Boris Netsvetaev's keyboard which takes inspiration from Ongolo's trumpet in its own dance.
Reid draws on the rich and varied history of artists he's worked with in each of the compositions on Daxaar – free jazz, Afro-beat, funk, and more are all incorporated deftly and subtly to create something vibrant and new. The album is steeped in the past while providing a glimpse of the future.

08: Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna [Social Registry] Yeah, we can be jealous all we want but Brooklyn rules. A short subway ride to Coney Island, a sweet brewery, stoop sales in front of beautiful brownstones, and a pretty kick-ass music scene that includes Gang Gang Dance. The Exclaim Reader's Poll ranked Saint Dymphna at #1 on the Destination Out list (and yes, that's my song of praise for Bill Dixon at #4) and I'm not surprised this record caught on. Every time I played it in the store or on my radio show, it produced a favourable response.

07: Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It [Columbia] Here's what I had to say about this album when I reviewed it for Stylus in the December 08/January 09 issue:

The cover art is definitely a clue to the material on The Way I See It. A photo of Saadiq in a well-tailored suit and thin tie echoes Sam Cooke, as does the shot of Saadiq behind a piano in the studio. Numerous artists are doing throwback 'soul' records of late, sometimes aping the sounds and sometimes updating them – but none of them bear the sincerity that The Way I See It displays.
From his days in Tony Toni Tone to the short-lived Lucy Pearl project, Saadiq has always incorporated old soul sounds, but with this record they are no longer just elements, but elemental.
The string arrangements, the brisk two-minute a song pace, well-placed but limited duets, Stevie Wonder's harmonica and universal themes disguised as mere love songs – all of this had me thinking I was listening to unearthed Motown or Capitol masters.
I could go on and on about the quality and authenticity of the production (though my editor would object), but suffice it to say the album sounds spectacular.
"Keep Marchin'" to take just one example, features crisply recorded drums that set the cadence for the march and Saadiq's vocals fuzz out in the upper reaches – clearly these were recorded live and not tweaked in the post-production.
Included as a bonus track, "Oh Girl," which features Jay-Z sticks out from the rest of the material but it still carries the albums' joyful spirit and finds Saadiq giving a timely nod to modern audiences – the rest of timeless.

06: Black Mountain - In The Future [Scratch/Jagjaguwar] This was one of the oldest releases of 08 on my list but In The Future's place on the year end list never wavered. I probably knew deep down when I made it my second-ever-entry on this blog that it would make the cut from longlist to short.

05: Tigerrr Beat - Don't Bother Me While I'm Doing Magic [Independent] The highest Winnipeg entry on my list is from a band that is on a hiatus of sorts as the members are busy with school and work. They didn't tour at all in support of DBMWIDM because of the break but they still managed to show up on several campus/community Top 30 charts across the country because the record is so good it speaks for itself. Noisy, raw and in-your-face, this is rock music that never deigns to indulge in pop.

04: Brightblack Morning Light - Motion To Rejoin [Matador] Working part-time at Music Trader has several benefits beyond the discount on records and CDs. Chief among them is working with other music nuts who sometimes introduce me to a great album I haven't already heard. I owe Crabskull a big thumbs-up for playing this record on more than one shift together. His passion for production tuned him in to this rich, warm and fuzzy record and he then turned me on to it. The keyboards on Motion To Rejoin alone are worth the sticker price but there's so much more to soak up. Get some good headphones because - to paraphrase Superdrag - this is a head-trip in every key.

03: Azeda Booth - In Flesh Tones [Absolutely Kosher] According to a site-tracker from Google Analytics that I installed on this blog, one of the most read entries of 2008 was my write-up of Azeda Booth's In Flesh Tones. Since that July post I've had the opportunity to see the band live and interview them, and I've already marked my calendar for their April 4th show at the Lo Pub (provided my baby isn't born a week early).

02: Nomo - Ghost Rock [Ubiquity] This is the second-last of the picks that I have already written about on Ear To The Sound, which means that if you've been following along all along, you've also read about my favourite album of the year. I won't reiterate what I wrote about Nomo in August 08, just encourage you to re-read my original post and listen to the interview with Elliott Bergman. So without further ado...

01: Russian Circles - Station [Suicide Squeeze] My friend Jared said "I figured" when I showed him my Number One before we recorded our year-end special. Some years there is an out and out favourite that is so far ahead of the pack there's never any question what my #1 album will be. This was not actually one of those years. Last year, Basia Bulat's Oh, My Darling was unstoppable and Sing Along With The Acid House Kings was 2005's juggernaut but I actually agonized for a while over whether Station truly outranked Ghost Rock. Apparently Jared knew how much this album slayed me after reading this entry and drew his own conclusion.

Speaking of conclusions, that does it for me and 2008. Here's hoping 2009 proves to be as fruitful a year in new music.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Long and the Short of It... Part 4

Well this is it. We're down to the last of the near misses as I run through my longlist of 2008 albums that didn't make the Top 20. If you missed it, you can still check out Parts 1, 2, and 3. You can also skip ahead and check out my Top 20 which is listed on the UMFM website amongst the lists of other programmers at the station.
Truthfully I'll be glad to put '08 behind me so I can resume writing about new albums that have crossed my desk - I've already got a couple doozies lined up - as well as a new recurring feature I'm going to do discussing albums that were foundational in my listening library. Some are outright classics, but a few are personal and peculiar. For now, let's get down to the last of the long...

Hilotrons - Happymatic (Kelp Records)
Kudos to Cokemachineglow for including Happymatic in their Top 50 Albums list (at #18 no less). I haven't seen this record on any other year-end lists (though it did make the Polaris long list) and that's a shame because this Ottawa band have produced a very solid effort. Synth-driven pop music that's dance-able but also rewards a dedicated listen, Happymatic isn't so much new wave revivalism as it is a return to blissful pop that captures sunshiny feelings.
Check out "Dominika" for proof.

Castlemusic - You Can't Take Anyone (Blue Fog)
At one point, I had really hoped to write an entry about this record but procrastination set in and I never got around to it. That's a shame because this is another one of the overlooked gems of 2008. Castlemusic is the brainchild of Toronto multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Castle, who drums in Everybody Get Sick and shreds guitar in Fox the Boombox. With Castlemusic, she reveals a softer side. Her wispy, shaky vocals aided by solo guitar, piano and other subtle instrumentation; the songs smoldering with emotion, threatening to catch fire.

Here's "Heaven" from You Can't Take Anyone.

Alice Russell - Pot Of Gold (Six Degrees Records)
One of the highlights of the past year for me was not only getting to see Alice Russell perform live as part of the Jazz Winnipeg Festival in June, but also the opportunity to introduce her performance. I can't believe how nervous I was to finally see this phenomenal UK songstress live and my intro is a blur in my memory, but the show - thankfully - is etched into my memory. Russell previewed some of the material from Pot Of Gold but I had to wait until the very end of '08 to hear the record as a label change delayed its release. Leaving Tru Thoughts for Six Degrees the album doesn't suffer from the move as Russell's inimitable voice and producer TM Juke are both present. Curiously, Russell revisits what I've always felt was her strongest tune, "Hurry On Now" and turns it into a horn-fueled funk number instead of the languid torch song it was on Under The Munka Moon. She also tackles Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," which carries the languid torch song mantle for Pot Of Gold. No offense to Cee-Lo but I think she outbelts him.
Now perhaps if I'd had just a little more time with this record it wouldn't get the short end of the stick in appearing on my long list.

Here's "Turn And Run," mislabeled as "Turn & Round":

The Matthew Herbert Big Band - There's Me And There's You (!K7)
Following up 2007's Score - an album of soundtrack work - Britain's Matthew Herbert returns to the big band format he first explored on 2003's Goodbye Swingtime. Reworking some of his more experimental material, Herbert's arrangements reveal the melodic elements of his musique concrète compositions and transcend the novelty of the idea. There's Me And There's You lacks the eerily beautiful vocals of ex-wife Dani Siciliano, and suffers somewhat for this loss but Herbert has enlisted Eska Mtungwazi, whose voice is decidedly different from Siciliano's with its brassy, forceful tone.

I couldn't find a video from the new album, but here's a solid live performance of "Foreign Bodies":

Samuel Jackson Five - Goodbye Melody Mountain (Differential Records)
Another late-year discovery, this one a phenomenal post-rock outfit from Oslo, Norway who apparently have two prior albums (though I've yet to hear Easily Misunderstood or Same Same, But Different). I get the sense from the band's bio on their website that the genesis of their material is rooted in improvisation:

We let each individual explore and push their own limits, without losing focus on the melody. The outcome is ever changing but often leads to ethereal, experimental, improvised, dynamic music.

If you're a fan of Explosions In The Sky, dredg, or Godspeed! You Black Emperor, then you'll want to check out Goodbye Melody Mountain.

For now this is as close as North American artists are going to get to seeing SJ5 perform live:

Al Green - Lay It Down (EMI Music)
The Right Reverend Al was back in full effect in 2008, thanks in part to producers Questlove from the Roots and James Poyser (does anyone else miss the Soulquarians and wish they'd do more?). Green's also aided and abetted by Corinne Bailey Rae, John Legend and the Dap-Kings Horns among others. How could an album featuring a collaboration between a Legend in name and a LEGEND in reputation go wrong? It couldn't and it didn't - this is an album of sweet soul music and it hearkens back to Green's Hi Records era recordings.

Instead of a video from Lay It Down, here's a video on the making of the album:

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Part

Speaking of the Soulquarians, their sole female member released her first album in half a decade. Five years on from Worldwide Underground, Badu presents her own State of the Union on New Amerykah, Part One. The album's subtitle - 4th World War - certainly gives a clue as to the state of Badu's Amerykah and songs like "Soldier" and "Amerykahn Promise" speak to the social conditions and conscience of the nation. Produced by Madlib, 9th Wonder and the Sa-Ra Creative Partners, the multiplicity of production is offset by the singular vision and voice that Badu possesses and expresses.

Closing track "Honey" is what Malcolm Gladwell might call an outlier when you consider the serious tone set by the rest of the album, but it has one of the most amazing videos of 2008 with its visual references to classic hip-hop, soul and funk records. You can see it here (embedding's been disabled unfortunately).

Blitzen Trapper - Furr (Sub Pop)
Anyone who caught Portland's Blitzen Trapper open for Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Pyramid on October 27, 2008 could be forgiven for failing to remember just what Malkmus opened with - the residual buzz from Blitzen Trapper's amazing set had yet to wear off. Much as I enjoy me some Malkmus, I actually enjoyed that opening set more. Blending sun-dappled harmonies, scruffy roots and stoner rock, Furr sounds like the baby that would be born from a CSNY + Grateful Dead + Beach Boys copulation session. Between this record and The Moondoggies Don't Be A Stranger, Portland held a special place in my heart in '08.

Here's the title track as performed live on Conan O'Brien:

M83 - Saturdays=Youth (Mute)
Following the melodramatic Before The Dawn Heals Us with a mixture of blissful pop and cinematic material, Frenchman Anthony Gonzalez pours all the angst and longing he can manage into Saturdays=Youth. The blissful pop comes courtesy of "Kim and Jessie" and "Graveyard Girl," while the cinematic material includes "Too Late" and closer "Midnight Souls Still Remain." Some of the instrumental songs echo Jan Hammer's muscular work, while others make me think of what it would sound like if Vangelis was composing scores for pornos. Saturdays=Youth is a strange and beguiling record.

Here's the official video for single "Kim and Jessie":

Women - Women (Flemish Eye)
The other great record from Calgary label Flemish Eye in 2008 was produced by the best known artist on the roster, Chad VanGaalen, but Women is a very different creature from Soft Airplane, though it does share the lo-fi recording approach VanGaalen has used on his own material. Blending noise, indie-pop and clever band interplay, Women is a distinct and fully-formed record from a very young band. It will be interesting to see them grow and hear what they do next.

While it's best to listen to the album as a whole, check out "Black Rice" from their self-titled debut!

Thanks for reading, now start listening...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Long and the Short of It... Part 3

I had hoped to get the longlist wrapped up before now but New Years celebrations and a trip to the NFC Wild Card game in Minneapolis interfered with that plan. Ah well - c'est la vie; here's list three.

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant)

The world's best bar band follow up the amazing Boys And Girls In America (#9 on my 2006 Best Of) with a pretty solid fourth effort that further mines the drunken good times Craig Finn lives and breathes. Speaking of drunken good times, rumour has it I missed a particularly good show when the Hold Steady played Fargo in July. A Wurlitzer rising out of the stage and DJ Co-op riding a little kid's bike?!

Here's my favourite track from the album, "Sequestered In Memphis"

The Black Keys - Attack and Release (Nonesuch)

While another Danger Mouse-produced record got more attention in '08, his work with Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney resulted in the better record. Loose and bluesy, Attack and Release also features Marc Ribot - the king of loose and bluesy guitar work. DM's production is understated to the point where if you didn't read his name on the liner notes you'd be unlikely to know he was involved. There is a bit of a groove to A&R, which he no doubt contributed to, though that groove would have been amplified had Ike Turner worked on the record as had been rumored before his death. Ah well, don't think about the one that got away - just enjoy what you have.

Connie Price & The Keystones - Tell Me Something (Ubiquity)

Like El Michaels Affair on their Sounding Out The City record, Connie Price & The Keytones create dope hip-hop instrumentals within a band setting. Tell Me Something finds CP&K teaming up with some great emcees including the legendary Big Daddy Kane and up-and-comer Ohmega Watts to craft some cold crush classics of the new school. Mykah 9 from the Freestyle Fellowship rides the bass heavy "Highlife" to grand effect and things wrap up with a double dose of Percee P. Here's "Masters At Work," the song, not the group:

Earth - The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull (Southern Lord)

Now either I wasn't paying attention when Hibernaculum first came out or I just didn't get to hear it before the end of 2007. Either way, that album didn't make my list last year but after being tipped to Earth after the fact, I was up on them in time for The Bees' release. Apparently what they play is referred to as "drone doom" - which may be a pretty weak genre name but speaks to the spaced out heavy metal vibe this band has mined for six albums. Here's lead-off track, "The Driver":

Santogold - Santogold (Downtown)

This album nearly made the top list solely on the strength of its first single, "L.E.S. Artistes." Despite having heard it about a thousand times over the year it never wore out its welcome or lost its impact (unlike say, this song). While it never quite recaptures the high of that first song, the album as a whole is catchy and multi-dimensional. I don't know why but I find the "L.E.S. Artistes" video somewhat unsettling:

Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era cont. (Kranky)

I don't think it rivals Cryptograms, but credit is still due to Bradford Cox for managing to follow up that stellar record with material that doesn't pale in comparison. That he managed to come up with TWO albums worth of material boggles me a bit...

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel (Kranky)

...though two albums don't boggle me as much as THREE! Cox's other project, Atlas Sound, finds him doing something entirely different but equally good. The dude is apparently hoarding talent. Which may explain why Nickelback has none.

Bison BC - Quiet Earth (Metal Blade)

I first heard about this Vancouver band when they were just "Bison" but after signing with Metal Blade, the group added BC (which could be taken as either a reference to their home province, or the prehistoric magnitude of their rock) to preempt any lawsuits as they entered the US music market. Kudos to local metal maniac James Korba for being up on the band so long ago that I was looking forward to Quiet Earth before even Cretin Rob knew about it (speaking of Cretin Rob - if you're in Winnipeg and you read this before Friday January 9th come out to the Cretin Hop). Riff-heavy and punishing, Quiet Earth is anything but quiet - have a listen to the "Slow Hand of Death":

Horse Feathers - House With No Home (Kill Rock Stars)

It may seem a bit incongruous to follow up the very loud Bison BC with the very quiet Horse Feathers but that's the kind of year it was. I first discovered Portland's Horse Feathers when I was looking to do a show on "equine music" and found 2006's Words Are Dead album in UMFM's library. House With No Home builds on the strengths of that record and finds lead vocalist Justin Ringle echoing early Iron & Wine (without sounding derivative) with his hushed, delicate delivery. The not-so secret weapon in Horse Feathers though are the gorgeous string arrangements of Heather and Peter Broderick - cello and violin are the perfect accompaniment to Ringle's heartfelt songs. Here's Justin and Peter performing "Curs In The Weeds," in the weeds:

Peter Broderick - Home (Hush Records)

So Bradford Cox isn't the only person with more than one album to make the longlist. Broderick's solo album Home - while different from his work with Horse Feathers - is no less impressive. Opener "Games" bathes the listener in a warm wash of sound (and lyric-less vocals) that sets the tone for the album - it's as immediately comfortable as coming home. Eschewing the violin he plays in Horse Feathers, and the piano he has played in the past, Broderick crafted this album simply with layered guitar work and his voice. The results are beautiful. Here's Broderick performing "Below It" from Home, live in Berlin:

I'm going to wrap Part 3 up, but there's only one more longlist post left. Watch for it soon. Thanks for reading, now start listening...